Top Stories

Commissioner Adam Silver talks Caitlin Clark, TV rights deals and expansion

The NBA commissioner also touches on 'Inside the NBA', the end of the G League Ignite and honoring Bill Walton.

Commissioner Adam Silver addresses assembled media prior to Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Finals in Boston.

• Download the NBA App 

BOSTON – The growing interest in the WNBA, fueled by the arrival of rookie sensation Caitlin Clark, led Thursday evening to the latest in a series of that-league-has-arrived moments.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, at his annual NBA Finals news conference, fielded multiple questions about and discussed topics related to the women’s league. That was something of a first for these events.

Here are summaries of those and other topics addressed by Silver before Game 1 at TD Garden:

On opponents’ treatment of Clark

The WNBA season is young and Silver noted that testing new players, particularly highly touted ones, is common across basketball.

“It seems like she can take care of herself. She’s a tough player,” Silver said, referring to a flagrant foul by a Chicago player that knocked Clark to the floor. “Of course I want to see Caitlin treated fairly and appropriately in the league.”

Silver also didn’t duck the issue of race playing a part in the chatter about that incident, along with instances of Black WNBA players playing especially physically against Clark and criticizing the extensive attention she has received.

“Sports historically has been a platform for people to talk directly about these issues,” he said. “I don’t think we should hide from them, and I think the players are happy to engage on these issues. They’re sophisticated people.”

Asked specifically about ESPN host Pat McAfee’s vulgar remark about Clark in the aftermath, Silver treated it as a one-off comment in the context of a live broadcast and noted that McAfee apologized to her.

On TV contract negotiations

The commissioner broke no news on the NBA’s continued negotiations of its TV rights deals to begin in 2025-26. Disney/ABC, Amazon, NBC and Warner Bros. Discovery have been vying in what looks to be an expensive game of musical chairs, four contestants for three available packages of games and affiliated content worth an estimated $76 billion to the league over a decade.

He did call the process “incredibly complex” based on the technology involved (broadcast, cable and streaming), the competing bidders and a timeline stretching into an unpredictable future.

“So part of it is a bet on the partners that we will ultimately align with and their ability also to adjust with the times,” Silver said, “and their willingness to continue to invest in media and also become global.”

On “Inside the NBA” studio show

TNT’s Emmy Award-winning studio show is immensely popular. With host Ernie Johnson and former players Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, it stands as a cornerstone of the league’s long relationship with Turner Sports (now Warner Bros. Discovery). The end of WBD’s contract next spring could mean the end for that show.

“[To] the folks at Turner Sports, I apologize that this has been a prolonged process, because I know they’re committed to their jobs,” the commissioner said. “It’s a large part of their identity and their family’s identity, and no one likes this uncertainty. I think it’s on the league office to bring these negotiations to a head and conclude them as quickly as we can.”

On end of G League’s Ignite team

For four years, the G League ran the Ignite, a team without NBA affiliation with a roster of players without college experience. That run ended with this season.

Providing a “professional track” for players became less needed now that Name-Image-Likeness compensation is part of the college game. “We got to the point … where frankly we felt it didn’t make sense to compete against these top college programs,” Silver said.

On league expansion

It wouldn’t be a Silver news conference without a question about possible expansion. What he offered Thursday should neither excite or discourage folks in Seattle, Las Vegas, Mexico City or parts unknown.

The timeline always has been 1) collective bargaining agreement, 2) media rights deals, and 3) expansion. The NBA is nearing the completion of the second step.

“But by turning to expansion it doesn’t mean we’re going to announce that now we’re ready to add teams,” he said. “It means that there will be a committee of NBA governors that will focus on it.”

On honoring Bill Walton

The Hall of Fame center, as well known for his broadcast career and effusive personality as for his basketball exploits at UCLA and in the NBA, died May 27 at age 71 of cancer. He won one of his two NBA championships with Boston in 1986 — the other in 1977 with Portland — and the Celtics had his widow, Lori, and Walton’s four grown sons in attendance Thursday.

Players from both teams wore shooting shirts during warmups featuring “WALTON” in block letters, in tie-dye colors associated with Walton and his love of rock’s Grateful Dead.

Silver spoke of the friendship they developed through their NBA careers.

“I remember the first time we played in China, in 2004, being on the Great Wall with him,” he said. “He was quite an adventurer. I can’t think of a better ambassador for the NBA than Bill. He enjoyed talking to every single person.”

* * *

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.